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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

248                              THE GAY GENIUS

ing is of its scales and fins and eyelids, the painting will be dead.

One must of course observe details. Su Tungpo once recorded an
amusing incident. There was a Szechuen collector of paintings, and
among the hundred odd paintings in his possession he valued most
highly the one of a fight between bulls, by Tai Sung. One day the
collector was sunning this painting in a courtyard. A young cow-
herd happened to pass by; he looked at the painting for a second a^
shook his head and laughed. On being asked what he was laughing
at, the boy replied: "When bulls are locked in combat, their tails are
tautly drawn between their hind legs. This painting makes the bulls'
tails stand up straight behind!"

Su Tungpo also condemned Huang Chuan, a famous painter of
birds, for his inaccurate observation of the habits of birds. But mere
observation and accuracy cannot give us true art. One must exercise
intuitive insight, amounting to a pantheistic delight in the birds and
animals of nature. Perhaps the best insight into what Su Tungpo wa$
trying to do in portraying the inner spirit of things is afforded by a
poem he wrote on a picture of a crane painted by himself. He re-
marked that when a crane standing in the marshes sees a human being
approach, he has set his mind to fly even before moving a feather.
But when no human beings are around, the bird has an air of com-
plete relaxation. This is the inner spirit of the crane that Su Tungpo
tried to reproduce in his painting.

In speaking further about painting the inner spirit rather than thd
external forms of objects, Su Tungpo says:

"It has been my opinion concerning painting that men and
animals and buildings and structures have a constant material form.
On the other hand, mountains and rocks, bamboos and trees, ripples
of water, smoke and clouds do not have a constant form (sfiing) but
do have a constant inner spirit (II). Anybody can detect inaccuracy
in the constant forms, but even specialists often fail to note mistakes
in painting the constant inner spirit of things. Some artists find it
much easier to deceive the public and make a name for themselves
by painting objects without constant forms. When one makes a mis-
take in the form or contour of an object, however, the mistake is
confined to that particular* part and does not spoil the whole, whereas
if one misses the inner spirit, the whole painting falls flat. Because
such objects do not have a constant form, one must pay special atten-
tion to their inner laws. There are plenty of craftsmen who can copy
the minute details of objects, but the inner law of things can be com-
prehended only by the highest human spirits. Yuko's [Wen Tung's]
paintings of bamboos, rocks, and dried up trees may be said to have
truly seized the inner spirit of the objects. He understands how these